Seven percent of the Canadian population is diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but one in four paramedics is stricken with the condition. That’s just one of the astonishing data points we’re presented with in Kevin Eastwood’s eye-opening doc After the Sirens, coming to CBC Docs POV on Sunday (April 8).
As one of the participants in Eastwood’s doc tells us: of all first responders, paramedics experience “typically longer and more intense exposure” to the aftermath of accidents and crime scenes. But with a service we take for granted, who’s even paying attention? (Not worker’s comp, we discover, in another uncomfortable reveal.)
After the Sirens focuses on three paramedics whose struggles typify the dreadful effects of PTSD—including Vancouver’s Clive Derbyshire, who pronounced a friend dead at an ATV mishap and then descended so completely into addiction that he ended up as an intravenous drug user living in his car.
In Barrie, Ontario, Natalie Harris unravelled in the wake of a “moral injury” sustained at a murder scene. (She describes administering an IV to a man simultaneously being charged with two counts of homicide.) The prolonged and dramatic aftereffects, culminating in a suicide attempt, nearly cost this mother of two her family.
Familiar with the concept of “moral injury”? Me neither. This enlightening doc has much else besides to tell us. (Some of it trivial if fascinating: the relatively new field of paramedicine exploded after the 1972 debut of network TV drama Emergency!)
After the Sirens screens on CBC Docs POV on Sunday (April 8) at 9 p.m.